Stolen Bike! (my own story)

Not even we who post about biking are immune to the horrors that plague the bike world – like getting your bike stolen! In my case, it happened right out from under my nose (literally) just outside my apartment window…. and I think that’s what shocks me most of all.

After a morning in the dentist’s chair, I came home to relax. I planned to go back out – on my bike- in just a bit, so I did what I usually do and left my bike propped against the wall (fully visible from my window)… and yes….. unlocked. I was going to need the bike later in the day to finish off a League of American Bicyclists Traffic Safety 101 course I had enrolled in. (In my humble defense about the lack of locking the bike, I supposedly to live within a secured gated apartment complex and my back door and back deck are not visible to ANY passersby. Yet… somehow the thieves got in and got to my bike.) Now there goes my sense of security… :-(

Stolen from outside my home

I always approached my cycling life with the full realization that my bike could be stolen, and I purposely rode a bike that I felt “comfortable” locking outdoors in the theft-prone urban environment. I never expected the thieves to find me at home, which leaves me feeling more vulnerable and shell-shocked than ever.

Since realizing what happened, I have filed a police report, posted the theft to Craigslist and Chicago’s Stolen Bike Registry (I’m not the only theft lately!), posted the theft to several local blog sites known in Chicago (The Chainlink and Everyblock), and reached out to friends in the biking community. I’m pleased we are a small and supportive group.

Luckily, just a couple of months ago after giving a bike safety seminar at work for colleagues, I did record my bike’s serial number and registered it with the city (and affixed a pretty green registration sticker on my seat tube down near the bottom bracket).

Happy times with Toro

When I called the police, the officer completely sympathized with my loss – something I hadn’t expected – and the officer was also very pleased to hear that I had the serial number and knew my bike’s distinguishing features. Of course I did! It’s MY bike. If you value your bike, I suggest you get your bike’s serial number on file and make notes of what sets it apart from other bikes out there.

In my case… the thieves left behind a trail of accessories from my bike… scattered down my alleyway, including the u-lock and reflective triangle that hung from the rear rack. But they aren’t getting the wheels off unless they have the right tool for my bike’s locking skewers….

Now on to the identifying features of my bike:
* Schwinn Worldsport small frame (only 49cm at most)
* full fenders – front fender mounted back behind brakes
* bullhorn bars on a short raised stem
* pink handlebar tape (which may not still be there)
* bar end shifter on right of bars
* aftermarket Chainboard brand chainguard
* front pink/black Fyxation tire
* wheels were connected via locking skewers
* green sticker on seat tube (down near bottom bracket)- as being registered with the City Of Evanston

Toro's pink front tire!

As with most losses, the value is not in the item stolen, but in the sentiment attached to it. This bike has the efforts of my friends in it who helped her become what she is, including a pink saddle from our very own Jack “Ghost Rider” and the fitting and customizations of my mechanically inclined friends. In case I’ve never told you, I do thank you for making Toro so special to me.

On to recovery… if you have any leads, drop me a line at elizabeth [ at ] bikecommers [ dot ] com


  1. Nicholas Griffiths July 2, 2012 8:39 pm 

    Elizabeth, it always feels like a violation when something you own is stolen. I always locked my bike, even in junior high. But if you had anything interesting on your bike it would be gone…and I lived in a white collar neighborhood. Then one day my lock was smashed but it did not fail. I knew then it would always have to be locked. Later in life, I rode a cheap 10 speed to my work at an inter city hospital. Figuring nobody would want this cheap bike I only used a chain and padlock. Well, I came out one day to ride home…and no bike, just a cut padlock. Who would want this bike and take the effort to steal it? Being a holiday weekend security said it was the only one there and they will take anything. Unfortunately my beloved leather seat was on the bike. Now I work at a University campus. Security have informed me that 350 bikes are stolen a year. A friend used to lock beside me using a heavy braided cable…I disassemble my bike and lock all components using a U-lock to the steel frame embedded in concrete. Her bike was stolen, cut cable left for all to see. At home my daily commuter sits in the garage but my carbon fiber road bike sits in my living room. There are desperate, desperate people out there…and you can trust no one.

  2. Nicholas Griffiths July 2, 2012 8:44 pm 

    Sorry, I forgot to say I hope you recover you bike! It sucks.

  3. Elizabeth July 2, 2012 8:50 pm 

    Thanks, Nicholas

  4. Nicholas Griffiths July 2, 2012 9:45 pm 

    Where I park at work, they walk over onto campus with backpacks. The packpacks contain large wire/cable snips…so everyone beware, only U-locks work. They then ride the bike off campus. We have the video from security, who do not maintain real time surveillance. I always warn anybody locking in my area about the danger. I feel it’s the best I can do from my experience.

    Elizabeth, again sorry for your lose! Good luck. Do you have a back up bike?

  5. Elizabeth July 2, 2012 9:55 pm 

    Not a backup I feel comfortable locking up outside… so not very useful from the commuting aspect of cycling.

  6. Daniel July 3, 2012 4:03 am 

    I’m sorry to hear this. Your story resembles a bad dream that I have occasionally – looking for my stolen bike when I know I shouldn’t have left it out. I ride a commuter that I don’t want stolen (it is also the bike I take my boys on) and, like you, I have a u-lock and cable, and I live in a neighborhood where opportunistic theft is low, as you do. Nevertheless, it can happen and I am sorry it happened to you.

  7. Elizabeth July 3, 2012 4:22 am 

    @Daniel…. you described it exactly – feels like a bad dream.

  8. harry krishna July 3, 2012 6:24 am 

    now is the time to buy that perfect bike. it won’t assuage your grief, but you can view this situation as an opportunity. i would be better off if my pos commuter had been stolen 10 years earlier.

  9. Ghost Rider July 3, 2012 7:19 am 

    @Harry — brilliant idea! See, there’s always a way to put a positive spin on a bad situation.

    E, you WERE talking about upgrading your machine a while back. Do you have renter’s insurance? If so, a claim could be the “kickstart” to a new bike.

  10. Elizabeth July 3, 2012 7:23 am 

    @Harry and Ghost – you’re both right… but I would fear locking up a new bike outside even more!

    But… that being said… I’m open to ideas/suggestions (take note – my bike’s loss hurts more because she was “fit” to me – and that means a lot as a shorter female ~ 5’4″).

  11. Mir.I.Am July 4, 2012 3:27 pm 

    @E – you can get through this! You never know, whether you buy a new bike or not, Toro could turn up. I have leant out a bike that was registered, stolen, found by the police, and returned to me! Also, I had a friend whose bike was registered, stolen (unlocked downstairs in her apartment building’s bike garage area)… she bought a new one and then found that her old bike back in the apartment again, so she locked it and got it back!

    Positive spin is the way to go here. Maybe one of your cycling buddies can get you a loaner in the hopes that Toro turns up!

  12. Raiyn July 4, 2012 8:47 pm 

    @ Elizabeth
    Methinks you miss the point. Buy the dream bike and transfer the role of commuter the the “back up.

  13. Raiyn July 4, 2012 9:00 pm 


  14. dan brown July 5, 2012 11:20 am 

    Elizabeth..SO Sorry to read this. I cannot imaging how you feel
    when the thief had the guts to come right up to your window ?

    hang in there…many many folks are keeping their eyes peeled for Toro. If you want to go to swap-o-rama Saturday let me know.
    I would be happy to assist. I witnessed first hand a successful
    reunion of bike and owner there a year ago.

    Dan Brown

  15. PhilGE July 5, 2012 2:04 pm 

    So sorry to hear this news! I sincerely hope you’re able to find a reasonable replacement. Like falling off a bike, the best way to get over the fear of loss is to get back up and ride again, no matter what bike it is. Sweet bikes are cool and surely attract thieves like flies to wet candy. I’d support you in finding something reasonable to ride that won’t break the bank if stolen again. Just get out there again and keep moving. Best wishes!

  16. illiniwu July 5, 2012 6:42 pm 

    exact same thing happened to me! i used to leave my bike unlocked under some stairs in my locked gated building. it wasn’t visible from the back or front. the bike was from the 70s and weighed a monstrous 50 lbs. but the thieves somehow hoisted it over the gate. i feel for you. as much as people consciously use a “beater” as their commuter, it still hurts to have it stolen. i still find myself looking for it whenever i see another blue bike. i hear most chicago;s stolen bikes end up at a swap meet:

  17. Elizabeth July 6, 2012 3:17 pm 

    Who wants to help scour the Swap-O-Ramas around the area???

  18. Raiyn July 6, 2012 10:10 pm 

    I would, but I’m nowhere near Chi-town

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